The following are remarks from the Honorable Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nationa, upon receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles 06 April 2016
“Thank you so much for your warm welcome.
It is a pleasure to be here at Loyola Marymount University. I would like to express my great appreciation for this honorary degree. I know you are recognizing not just me, but also the United Nations. Thank you for this vote of support for our efforts to advance peace, development and human rights across the world.
I thank my good friend Professor Tom Plate for his kind introduction. My connection with LMU starts with him.
Our friendship goes back decades. He was a long-time journalist, specializing in East Asia. I was a senior official in the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and eventually became Foreign Minister. Professor Plate and I came to know each other, and talked often about Asian affairs. When I became Secretary-General, our talks turned to global issues.
It was early in my tenure that he told me about Loyola Marymount University — a wonderful community, he said, that is strongly committed to the ideals of the United Nations. “You must visit”, he said. Since there is nothing I like as much as spending time with young people, here I am!
You may recall that I greeted the Loyola community by video last October when Professor Snyder was inaugurated as your President. I am glad now to have this opportunity to congratulate him in person. I especially welcome this chance to share a few thoughts about this moment in world affairs — and how Loyola can continue helping the world to meet the tests of our time.
Loyola Marymount’s spirit of civic engagement is visible in so many ways.
The long-standing De Colores programme evolved from constructing houses in Mexico to a partnership where you learn from and support each other. You have gone from building homes to building bridges between people. This is just what we need at a time when extremist groups and too many politicians strive to divide.
I commend the LMU alumna who founded the Press Institute for Women in the Developing World, which is offering training in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Rwanda and elsewhere
Professor Jok Madut Jok has been doing admirable work to advance education in South Sudan.
I welcome Loyola’s newly established World Policy Institute. Professor Plate’s Asian Media Centre is another important forum.
And you have taken an important stand for human rights by joining other Jesuit colleges and universities in speaking out against racial inequality.
President Snyder spoke at the inauguration ceremony about the importance of “global imagination” in illuminating pathways into our future.
My own global imagination was profoundly influenced by the Organization I now serve and lead.
You could say I am a child of the United Nations.
During the Korean War, when my family had no food, the United Nations fed us. When our schools were burned down, the United Nations gave us books. When our economy collapsed, the United Nations mobilized support. The troops of many nations defended us while serving under the UN blue flag.
Now, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I strive daily to do for others what the United Nations did for me.
Over the past ten years, I have sought to empower the world’s women, defend human rights, strengthen peace operations, promote social justice, and modernize the United Nations itself.
We now have an ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is our 15-year plan to end global poverty, fight inequality, promote the rule of law and build peaceful societies.
The new Paris Agreement on climate change is our potential peace pact with the planet.
These agreements open exciting new horizons.
Yet our hopes are threatened by armed conflict, terrorism, extremism and brutal acts that defy all norms of humanity. More people have fled their homes than at any time since the Second World War. Humanitarian needs are reaching new heights — but life-saving relief efforts are struggling for funds while vast sums are being squandered on weapons of war.
That is why we are bringing all countries together at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23rd and 24th in Istanbul. We need to do more to help suffering people now – and prevent emergencies in the future.
The nightmare in Syria has just entered its sixth year.
The United Nations is leading diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, and those talks are showing the first signs of hope in years. A cessation of hostilities has held for more than a month. UN-led negotiations resume later this week in Geneva.
The United Nations and our partners are managing to finally get some humanitarian supplies through, but there are still people in besieged areas who have not received aid in months or even years.
I am very moved by your decision, taken just days ago, to help Syrian students and scholars who have been torn from their homes and schools.
Syrian refugees want to go home, but cannot. I have been pressing all countries to resettle Syrians and refugees of so many other nationalities who have a right to asylum. Yet too many countries are erecting barriers or not doing their fair share. This hurts refugees and the host communities themselves, which are missing out on potentially enormous contributions. With a little support, refugees will become doctors and caregivers, workers and entrepreneurs, bright students and researchers who advance human progress for all.
I thank you for recognizing that these refugees are an asset to your community.
Let me say a special word to the young people here today:
You are part of the largest generation of young people the world has ever known. You are also part of one of the most important ways that the United Nations has changed to keep up with the times: we are focusing on the power of young people as never before.
When I look around this room, I see more than leaders of the future – I see leaders for today.
Too often, youth are regarded as problems or easy prey for terrorists. But where some see trouble, I see an underutilized powerhouse for human progress.
That is why I appointed the first-ever UN Youth Envoy, and why the UN system recently launched a youth employment initiative. Last December, the Security Council adopted a landmark resolution that aims to bring youth to the table as peacebuilders — where they belong but have been long absent.
Young people today have wide-ranging opportunities to contribute, to link up with like-minded peers, and to pursue their dreams.
Whatever path you choose, the world needs you to show allegiance not just to your immediate family, community, or nation, but to the wider global community.
LMU is a place to learn, to question and to challenge. Universities need to be places where we can listen to each other, and each other’s ideas, in peace.
This hilltop campus gives you a beautiful view of the Pacific ocean.
But I know you also look within, in keeping with the Jesuit nature of this school.
I saw that character up close last September, when His Holiness Pope Francis visited the United Nations. I recall his moving words on that occasion. “The full meaning of individual and collective life”, he said, “is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good”.
I look forward to the contributions you will make as global citizens and — if you make the choice I made decades ago — as public servants.
Let us reach out to the vulnerable and the excluded. Let us fulfill our duty to leave no one behind — and to reach the farthest behind, first.
Together, we can usher in an era of dignity for all.”